Travel is a constant lesson, always teaching us that something new is around the corner and making us learn from these experiences. For Sinead and I, gone are the days of early morning flights that force us to depart our beds at stupid-o-clock, and of having to rush to get to our next location! This time we had time and finally had the relaxing start to a trip that I had craved.
Our morning started as any would with the blaring alarm pulling us from our slumber and back into the foggy mind of morning. With a few grunts and both of us shoving each other to get out of bed first and have the shower, Sinead finally caved as my foot managed to scootch her leg out of bed. So started our day of travel. Not far behind her I struggled to get out of bed and to the kitchen where, like any good temporary brit, put on a morning cuppa. The breakfast of pizza was an easy affair as we brokedown everything in our packs and did the last and final checklist, as always remembering something we had forgotten. This was met with a brief jump up from the table, followed by a rummage through the other room until either one of us would walk out with a smile on our face at our success of finding and fitting the missing item into our pack.
A brisk morning walk and running into friends in town led us to the New Street Station in Birmingham city centre. A quick battle with the ticket machine, that often asks too many questions and takes too long to give a ticket, concluded successfully. Walking to the platform, instead of running was an instant luxury when we had a pack strapped to our backs. A short journey on an uneventful train made our trip to the airport, probably one of the easiest yet. No hurry and still almost 40 minutes to make it through duty free, and for every guy out there, I know your pain!
It was my first time flying with Vueling, a European (Spanish) budget airline. While I don’t know much about the company, for a budget liner, I would fly with them again. The seats seemed to have enough room although I don’t have the biggest of frames, but it was comfortable for the short hop. Only disappointing factor was that the people across from us had an unpleasant odor. TRAVEL TIP: Don’t be a stinky traveller, people notice.
Flying into what looked like a nice sunny Paris was fantastic, the hope for sun and proper sun, not English sun, awaited! The stuffy OrlyVAL (Airport Transfer Train) had me sweating and Sinead feeling embarrased that I was applying a freshener of my deoderant in public, to which I proclaimed, “I think the people would prefer this than a smelly me!” an arguement I clearly won 😉
Traversing the metro and RER system in Paris through what felt like a flood of people finally led us to Saint-Lazare, our connection point to Rouen where we would be spending the next few days. By this point we were a bit hangry and needed food before either of us killed the other, and like a God rising in the distance we saw Carrefour (FOOOD!!!). After a ham and goat cheese panini and enough snickers to kill a race horse perked my spirits and we jumped on the train to Rouen.
The train faintly smelt of cigarettes, which seemed to add to the illusion that the French just don’t care about anything as much as the over PC western world we live in. The throaty tones of French people filled the cabin. Occasionally there was a familar accent off in the distance, that was swallowed up by the louder French conversations. After receiving several dirty looks for talking in blantant English, a young gentleman approached us, and in a flurry of what I can only assume was French, Sinead translated this flood of words into “I think he wants us to move the bags so he can sit down”. We had a third wheel.
He may have slept for most of the journey or at least pretended to so the annyoing English speakers would leave him alone. But as the train finally slowed, the words ROUEN streaked past me. I knew we had arrived at our destination, our temporary home for the few days here.
The weather had taken a turn and we were greeted by storm clouds mixed with a fair share of humidity. This foreshadowing of a downpour did little to dampen our spirits as we walked into the main hall of the station. There we waited, as every couchsurfer does, on their phone frantically messaging the host we would be with for the next few days. We saw a few ladies approach and walk past, all of whom looked like our host, but when the one woman walked in, we knew. But we just waited and before long we recieved the message and we walked over to make our introductions.
Our host was super friendly, helping us to their car. From there we ended up going straight to dinner, after a nice long walk along the docks. Sinead had insisted on walking further and further, “just till the next boat!” Finally, making our way back to where we were originally headed, we were sat down for a Seine-side dinner.
With traditional Norman food available, the host recommended that we try the burgers, I followed their advice and went with just that. Sinead’s seafood craving took over and she dove into a bucket full of Norman style mussels (basically a camembert and cream sauce). As we ate, we came to know our host better and started sharing travel stories, the rain that had threatened to come, gave way to a nice evening after all.
The meal, as all good ones do, went on for several hours, with a few drinks, delicious food (burgers were an amazing choice and will not be forgotten) and of course room for dessert at the end of it all. The creme Brulée was fantastic. Our host had an inspiration and remembered a forgotten event that was happening that night and being in good spirits, Sinead and I agreed.
A quick drive through the streets led us to the Rouen Cathederal, a feat of beauty and architecture. Within minutes of us arriving, the lights all around dimmed and we were greeted by a cathederal sized projection on the side of the building. This began the show of colour, light and sound. a truely breathtaking experience that had to be seen to be appreciated.
As this drew to a close, we were all quite tired so the only thing left to do was to travel to our accomodation and let sleep wash over us.
More to come on our trip from Sinead!
Stay Safe and Travel Far…